What's your number?

In fundraising, you always want to ask for a specific amount. That's true, whether you're talking to a major donor or writing an acquisition letter.

In your fundraising letters, you want to avoid a one-size-fit-all approach. Especially one that suggests a broad giving range, like "Please send $1,000, $500, $250, $100, $250, or $50."

Here's why: smaller donors might think their gift can't help. Because they see those big numbers first and can't give at the high end of the scale.

You might also have donors who could give more, but they give less. Because you "only" asked for $1,000. (True story.)

Instead, there's one number that all of your donors can relate to: your core number.


Your core number isn't a "magic" number, in that it's not pre-defined. Every nonprofit's core number will be different.

But your core number is indeed magical.

Your core number is the amount it takes to do something meaningful.

Your core number should be something that every donor can afford.

Then, it's up to the donor to decide how much impact she wants to have.

Let me show you how to calculate it and explain how it works.


Here's a real example:

There's a special, six-week summer day camp that costs about $68,000 to run.

It's for kids from low-income households. These are kids from families who struggle to make ends meet. For these families, camps and extracurriculars are a luxury - but those activities are critically important to a child's growth and development.

The organization wants 80 children to attend this summer.

That means it will cost $850 per child for the full 6 weeks. ($68,000 / 80)

Because it's a 6-week program, that works out to $141.67 per child. ($850 / 6)

And since the camp meets Monday through Friday, the daily rate is $28.33. ($141.67 / 5)

So, the core number for this program is $28.33.

Of course, you can round it.

Oddly enough, "odd" numbers look more believable. So your core number doesn't need to be $25 or any other round number.

Your core number is uniquely yours.


Now that you know your core number, tell your donor: "It costs $28 to send one child to one day of summer day camp."

In your fundraising letter, repeat this message over and over. (Because repetition works!)

Here's an example:

In the beginning of the letter, you might say:

Every kid deserves a chance to experience summer camp, but not everyone can afford it. For just $28, you can send one child to one day of summer day camp.

In the middle of the letter, you might say:

At a cost of just $28 a day, your gift of $140 can send a child to an entire week of summer camp.

Near the end of the letter, you could say:

With every $28 you give, you'll be helping a child have the experience of a lifetime this summer.

And your P.S. could remind the donor:

Every $28 you donate can sponsor one child, for one day of summer day camp. Please return your donation of $28 or more by April 30 so a child can have an unforgettable experience this summer!


When you know your core number, you can tell your donor how much (or little) it costs to do something meaningful.

With that information, your donor can decide how much impact she wants to have.

In the example above, the cost is just $28/day for a child to attend summer camp.

How many days does she want to sponsor? One? One week? More?

Or how many kids does she want to help attend? When she doubles her gift, she's helping two kids. And so on and so on.

Your donor decides on her own level of impact, now that she knows what $28 can do.

So, what's your number?

Photo credit(s): Pixabay

Need help calculating your core number? Or writing a fundraising appeal that will raise more money? Laura Rhodes can help.

Send a message to start the conversation and learn how Laura can help you and your organization.

You may also be interested in upcoming training events.